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Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes. Depending on the type of pink eye you’ve contracted, you may need to stay home for a few days to avoid spreading the infection. If you suspect you or your child are suffering from conjunctivitis, head to the closest Urgency Room to be diagnosed by a board-certified physician.
We’ve put together some information on the various types of pink eye, as well as some helpful instructions for what to do at home and when to return to the doctor.
Here’s a breakdown of the four main types of conjunctivitis. Each type requires a different approach. Both bacterial and viral pink eye, for example, spread easily from objects you’ve touched, such as a door handle or toy. You can also pass conjunctivitis by sharing an object that has touched your eye, such as a towel or pillowcase. If you have either of these types of pink eye, wash your pillowcases and towels daily, and avoid contact lenses.
Viral conjunctivitis is typically caused by the common cold virus and is not treated with antibiotics—because viruses don’t respond to them. You can try an over-the-counter antihistamine or decongestant eye drops, which may help to relieve the itching and irritation you may feel. This type of pink eye usually lasts three to five days.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with an antibiotic ointment or eye drops. Because this type of pink eye is so contagious, children with pink eye can’t go back to school or daycare until they’ve been on antibiotic drops for at least 24 hours.
Nonspecific conjunctivitis can be caused by dry eye, chemical exposure, or a foreign body in the eye—like dust or an eyelash. Symptoms generally improve with no treatment within 24 hours.
Allergic conjunctivitis symptoms are caused by allergies. This type of pink eye is typically treated with allergy medications.
In addition to following your doctor’s instructions, stick to the following:
No matter what kind of conjunctivitis you or your child are suffering from, the symptoms should improve within two days if you're following your doctor’s instructions. In the event that the symptoms fail to improve, come see us at the Urgency Room, or make an appointment with your regular doctor for a second eye exam.
Return to the Urgency Room immediately if you notice the following:
If you have any ongoing concerns about your health, give us a call or come see us at the Urgency Room anytime for fast, high-quality care you can rely on. We wish you a speedy recovery!
These videos are intended to provide helpful health information to the general public. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat health problems, and you should not use these videos in place of a call or visit to a medical professional. Talk with your physician about the proper treatment for your particular condition, and always follow your physician's advice. If you think you need an ambulance or are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911 immediately.